Saturday, June 12, 2010

America's Spiritual Crisis and the Unintended Consequence of Spiritual Lethargy (pt.3)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12 NKJV)

Up to this point I have tried to discuss why I believe that many churches are suffering from lack of attendance and lack of power in the congregation. I am in no way authoritarian in the matter, but can easily see many churches sliding backwards when they should be going forward. I see communities in dire need of healing; drugs, prostitution, and all sorts of crime running rampant; innocent children in our public schools being led in a direction that often scorns God, but lifts up the beliefs of other cultures. We have allowed secularism and atheism infiltrate in often subtle ways. It is these communities we have to reach out to. Our work is harder because of the wicked spiritual defenses that the enemy has walled around so many families. However the true church does not have to remain powerless. The author of Hebrews knew what it meant to lean on the scripture as the only true defense of Christ and Christianity. Those early brothers and sisters were faced with trials that most believers this day have never had to face; the early Roman persecutions. It doesn’t take too long to realize the test of faith they had to endure in order to name the blessed name of Jesus. Many paid for it with their blood as Nero ordered them to be fed to the dogs, crucified, and doused with flammable oil then set afire to serve as night lights for his gardens.

But to those early believers credit they thought life on earth to be only a passing fancy compared to an eternity with Christ. The Hall of faith in Heb. 11 is by far a biblical masterpiece that makes us all think more seriously about our relationship to Christ. It is a must read.

Somehow the endurance those early believers needed has been lost on many today:

“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “(Heb. 10:36 NKJV)

Today many are too happy with an easy walk with God. Granted, I am too. But I know in my heart that having a relationship with God means more that a sermon and a few dollars in the offering plate. I have had to face that struggle and I believe I always will.

Power again is what I believe we are missing in the church and in our relationship in Christ. A fire needs to start brewing in the church. As a child growing up in a small town it was a big event if there was a fire. I remember the smokehouse burning down in our backyard. Nearly the whole town showed up to watch it burn. That is a missing ingredient in or worship services. In an earlier post I referred to the need to know everything about God if I were going to dedicate my life to His will. I sought Him everywhere and I felt I was going to turn the world upside down for Christ. Well, that hasn’t happened yet but the fire that drove me is still within my soul.

If we want to see growth in our churches we must first get excited about our own relationship to God. We must look inward and then we must pray and allow ourselves to be broken for Christ. God asks us to trust Him just like David and the giant Goliath. We must realize our God is stronger than any other person, place, or thing. We must get to know Him.

Here is my simple prescription to a growing church:

1) Believe the Gospel as it has been handed down. Never doubt it.
2) Believe what you teach with a pure heart of sincerity. Others will know if you are not sincere.
3) Teach what is contained in the scripture. Water douses a fire; do not water the gospel down.
4) Teach the same Gospel that you first believed at all times. It saved you it will save others.
5) Be excited about what you believe and never be afraid to tell others why.
6) Realize the Church is not yours; it belongs to God. Do not tear down what He is building.
7) Study your audience. Remember your congregation has new believers and older seasoned ones. Do not preach on one level alone. Make sure the new believers get the milk but always be open to share the meat.
8) Look at what ministries your church is offering. Are they effective? Are those leading them doing it out of pride or just because no one else will do it and it needs to be done? Seek God in this matter and meet with the church council about the need to continue them.
9) Wait, wait, and wait upon the Lord. If the Church is being fed the truth with passion from the word God will raise up leaders in His time. Ministries will open up. People will give more when they see God moving.
10) Do not be afraid of the winnowing fan of God. Let Him plow the fields, plant the crop, and pull the weeds. Discord will kill a church but proper nourishment will grow it.

There are many other things that could be added but it these listed that I have seen God bless and grow. We have to get out of the way. Doing the above can be very difficult and even heart rending. It takes spiritual guts to stand on the word and let God build His church. You will shed tears and endure heckling and smears, but you have to stand strong.

God will bless those who strive to see Him lifted up. Isn’t about time we got around to doing it?
Remember we are not sufficient to do anything of ourselves for God’s glory, but He is willing to do anything to show His power if we will let Him.

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:5-6 NKJV)

God bless you all!